Classics of the Corn: Reefer Madness (1936)

classics

Reefer Madness is, as you probably know, a cautionary tale of epic proportions – one of the most famous cautionary tales ever filmed.

As the film beings, lengthy introductory title cards explain the dangers of marijuana through words, describing “its soul-destroying effects” and warning you that what you’re about to see may shock you.

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(Image: Etsy)

This introduction really sets the tone for the entire film, and lets the modern audience know what they’re getting into by watching this: a 100% melodramatic piece of propaganda.

Following these title cards is a tale of fictional characters and the dramatic results of their downward spiral into drug use.

A seemingly authoritative figure gives a talk on the importance of preventative education, opening up the film between the title cards and the fun stuff. This tactic makes it painfully obvious that the filmmakers are trying very hard to make their opinion seem like the correct one. “This guy is smart, ya’ll! Listen to him!”

Shifting gears, the film launches into the narrative. We follow a couple who sell drugs and a few of their customers/fellow cannabis junkies. As this twisted tale begins, the film loses its lecture-y feel and becomes straight corn.

I’m no proponent of drug use, but the wildly exaggerated performances and script make this quite hilarious to watch throughout most of its short run. There are a few scenes that are unbearably slow, but these don’t completely ruin the film’s entertainment value.

Ironically enough, this tale of drug-induced madness could have done more harm than good, given the fact that it shows people how to roll joints and hide them…

Reefer Madness is a short film with lots of awesome dance moves, an exaggerated and completely transparent propaganda message, bad special effects (I’m looking at you, doll jumper) and often overblown performances. What’s not to love about this cult classic? It’s certainly an interesting watch, and at only a few minutes over an hour I’d definitely say it’s worth at least one viewing. I can’t seem to come up with a solid score for it, but I would recommend it if for no other reason than its odd historical significance and a peek into ’30s propaganda.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

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7 thoughts on “Classics of the Corn: Reefer Madness (1936)

    • Lindsey says:

      That’s what makes delinquency films so much fun to watch! Teen delinquency films are even better than this one, in that respect — everyone gets in a frenzy over such horrific crimes as wearing lipstick in the wrong shade or staying out past 7 pm!

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